Sheila Blake


I grew up in New York I went to Cooper Union Art School there. I lived in California and then moved to Durham, North Carolina where I raised 4 kids and taught art at Duke University. I drew, painted, exhibited and sold my work nationally and internationally.   

I remarried in 1982 and we have 9 grandkids.   I’ve co-owned a leather shop, worked as a house painter and sign painter and wrote an advice column for Jane magazine. I've taught art at all levels, and from 2003- 2010 I taught painting and drawing at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, where I developed a curriculum that weaves color theory and composition into the practice of painting.  Currently I have a radio show:  Art as Experience, on WOWD LP FM.  From this, my radio partner and I have produced over 60 podcasts on art giving context and thought provoking ideas arriving from museum exhibits, movies, articles and books.  Since we are both artists and teachers we have a unique perspective, different from critics and art historians, and we have more fun. 

 I have a studio at my home in Takoma Park, Maryland, trying to keep the demands of life down to a minimum so that I can continue as an artist until I can’t lift the brush.  I mentor young artists here.   But mainly I paint, every day.

Artist Statement

My paintings are stories:  stories not in words, but in the language of paint.   Transforming a two-dimensional surface into a three -dimensional world is a beautiful and mysterious process.

I choose each subject because it calls up some fleeting and treasured memory, and by painting it, I can reclaim it and give presence to my past.  I first do some drawings, figuring out what to include, what to simplify, how to get the space to be cohesive and believable.  It’s always the color that is the sweet taste that makes me want to paint, but I have to wait, drawing in charcoal until I get the composition right.  Then come the pastels, which are in themselves finished works; and if they hold further possibilities then I finally begin the painting, which I work on for a long time, often over years, till everything about it has a feeling of calm inevitability. 

There’s so much in these paintings: so take your time, look, absorb the light, the mood: these paintings have a subterranean menace which I don’t intend, but I recognize and welcome. They are stories of places, of light and darkness.

My teachers are all the artists that I’ve loved: Bonnard Matisse,   Richard Diebenkorn’s surfaces, Rothko’s ephemeral power, Roy Lichtenstein’s mind, deKooning’s big landscape abstractions and Edward Hopper’s composition. I believe that there are unexplored paths that began with these painters, and every day I am faced with reconciling the contradictions of the abstract expressionists who were at the heart of my training and the great representational painters of the past and present.

I’ve been a painter all my life. Creating the illusion of space and light with paint is what thrilled me from the beginning, and it is what thrills me now.

Sheila’s website